Careers education remains patchy in secondary schools

More than a third of (36%) of secondary school pupils don’t feel confident in taking their next steps in education and training, according to new research by the Sutton Trust.

Teachers and pupils were asked about the careers activities on offer at their school, including sessions with careers advisers, employer talks and trips to careers fairs. However, 36% of students said that they had not taken part in any of the activities listed, with state school pupils more likely to say this as those in private schools (38% vs 23%).

Schools in more deprived areas are also less likely to have access to a specialist careers adviser, with 21% of teachers in the most deprived areas reporting non-specialists delivered personal guidance, compared to 14% in more affluent areas.  

The research also highlights differences in guidance given to students on academic and technical routes. Nearly half (46%) of 17- and 18-year olds (Year 13) say they have received a ‘large amount’ of information on university routes during their education, compared to just 10% who say the same for apprenticeships.  

Paving the Way highlights the importance of young people having interactions with employers throughout their education. Work experience placements are a key part of this and offer young people important insights into the world of work. Despite this, less than a third of 17- and 18-year-olds (Year 13) have completed work experience. The Trust is recommending that all pupils have access to work experience between the ages of 14 and 16.

This report also looks at the barriers to offering high quality careers provision across schools. Almost a third (32%) of teachers in state schools report they don’t have enough funding to deliver good quality careers education and guidance, compared to just 6% in private schools. Around half (51%) of teachers in state schools think there isn’t enough staff time to do so, compared to just over a third (34%) in private schools.

COVID-19 has also had an impact on careers provision. 72% of teachers think the pandemic has negatively impacted their school’s ability to deliver careers education and guidance. Teachers in state schools were more likely to report this than teachers in private schools (75% vs 59%).  

As the qualification landscape continues to shift with the recent introduction of T Levels, and further changes expected over the coming years through the Lifelong Loan Entitlement, it is more important than ever that all young people have access to the information and guidance they need to progress into further study or work.  

The government’s previous careers strategy set out in 2017 has now lapsed, the Sutton Trust is urging the government develop a new strategy, with cross-departmental links to join up the system and integrate with the government’s broader Levelling Up programme.

To further improve careers provision across schools, the report makes a number of recommendations: for every young person to have access to a professional careers adviser and a set minimum number of interactions with employers, including work experience.

The report is urging for students to receive more information on apprenticeship options, with better enforcement of the Baker Clause, requiring schools to give information on a range of pathways. More time should also be earmarked in the curriculum to deliver careers education and guidance.


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