Play nice and share, schools and colleges told

FE news | Published in TES magazine on 25 May, 2012 | By: Stephen Exley

Guidance calls for greater cooperation between rivals

While stories about schools with their own sixth-forms failing to tell students about rival FE colleges have long been told, the issue has become more pressing since the government decided schools themselves should be responsible for careers advice.

Indeed, a report published in March by the Association of Colleges (AoC) found that half of all 11-18 schools were blocking FE colleges’ recruitment efforts. Of these, a third were found to be preventing pupils from attending open days and two-thirds were refusing to take part in joint taster days in order to try to keep hold of their students – and the associated funding they bring.

But new guidance, drawn up jointly by the AoC and the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), is being launched today with the aim of promoting closer cooperation between rival institutions.

Schools, the document states, should ensure that students have access to accurate information on “all the options available, both within the school or college and elsewhere”.

The guidance says providers should either club together to create a joint prospectus or agree to circulate each other’s brochures alongside their own. Schools are also advised to advertise the open days of all local providers and arrange joint careers fairs alongside colleges and work- based learning providers.

“With an education system that funds schools and colleges on the number of students they attract and encourages successful institutions to expand, it is easy to get sidetracked into accusations of self-interest,” said ASCL general secretary Brian Lightman. “This is clearly not in the best interests of young people.

“Schools and colleges have a responsibility to ensure that all students have access to timely, well-informed and impartial careers information, and they will only do this by working together in a spirit of openness. In some areas this is already happening and working well, but in others there is room for improvement.”

Schools and colleges are also advised to make sure their careers coordinators meet each other regularly and brief their colleagues on the full range of opportunities available from local providers.

Research carried out by the AoC earlier this year found that, while 63 per cent of Year 10 pupils had heard of A levels, awareness of vocational options such as apprenticeships (7 per cent) and foundation learning (3 per cent) was much lower.

AoC chief executive Martin Doel said: “AoC’s own research shows that young people, and their parents, have little idea of the full range of options open to them at 14 and 16, yet there is an increasing complexity of courses and institutions that cater for young people.

“Helping them to navigate these options is crucial if they are to gain the knowledge and training they need to gain access to fulfilling, lifelong employment.

“Schools and colleges working together can help to steer pupils on to courses that will lead to sustainable employment in a rapidly changing world. As the number of young people not in education, employment and training is rising, we must make them aware of apprenticeships, vocational courses and the wider opportunities available to continue their education and gain the standards necessary to find employment.”

But with careers funding in schools getting ever tighter, and doubts about how the Department for Education will ensure advice in schools is genuinely impartial, it is uncertain whether the new guidance will have a significant impact.

A guide to guidance

From the ASCL/AoC careers guidance: “A fundamental principle of good guidance is that young people should be helped to move on to the right option for them, having considered all the alternatives and the implications of their choices. In practice, this means that they should be informed of all opportunities available, and the progression routes that follow them, and have access to guidance that is impartial. Impartial in this context is defined as guidance that is provided in the best interests of the young person, and not influenced by the needs of the school or college to retain or recruit.”

Original headline: Play nice and share, schools and colleges are told

Paul Champion

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