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DfE's new statutory careers guidance sets unrealistic expectations of schools

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The government’s new careers strategy was published on 4 December 2017 and it sets out a raft of new expectations, particularly on secondary schools. 

Last Friday (5 January 2018), the Department for Education (DfE) published the accompanying statutory guidance. It provides more details on how schools are expected to deliver those expectations, and at NAHT’s insistence, it clearly differentiates between what schools could consider doing and what they will be legally required to deliver in relation to their careers programmes.

There is much to welcome in both documents: we were pleased to see recognition of the need to start raising aspirations, particularly in disadvantaged areas, in primary education and for our Primary Futures partnership with Education and Employers. 

The strategy also sets out some strong objectives for delivering careers programmes advice: 

  • Every school should have a designated careers lead with the skills to deliver a role that the DfE plans to define
  • Schools should offer every young person seven encounters with employers - at least once each year from years seven to 13
  • Schools offer pupils encounters with STEM employers
  • Every school and college meets the Gatsby Benchmarks for careers programmes.

And the DfE announced plans to increase the importance of careers provision in schools in the accountability system by September 2019.

The crux of the problem with this new strategy is it appears to assume each secondary school has a team of dedicated careers experts to take on all these new responsibilities and deliver this new accountability framework. Our members know this is totally unrealistic and what is key to delivering these new obligations will be funding. On this, the strategy is silent – there is new funding for the Careers Enterprise Company to work with some schools and some helpful new tools, but there's no funding for schools to deliver the careers strategy. 

NAHT believes this means that while the strategy sets out the right priorities and objectives, and while it’s a strong strategy, it simply cannot be delivered in the majority of schools. We will continue to lobby the DfE on this point on behalf of our members, but in the meantime, you can find the details of the new expectations here.

First published 08 February 2018