November 9, 2018 dmh

As teachers found out from the Chancellor recently, there is very little new money available for schools and young people. Whilst it is very much hoped more money will be made available, in the immediate term we all need to be careful about how we use existing funds.

What unites teachers and politicians is ensuring our young people are provided with the best possible chances in life. A key element is providing young people with careers guidance to help them navigate the myriad of options, to know where best to study, and to get a foothold into suitable learning and work. These are serious matters for our young people, their parents/carers and our economy. The government agrees.

In the last two years, there has been greater emphasis on the importance of careers guidance for young people. The DfE’s Careers Strategy is a welcome development, as is their new Statutory Guidance.

However, on the ground it is a very different picture. Whilst there may be pockets of excellence, the general story is far from rosy. For example:

We have just employed someone for 12-15 hours per week in order to continue to deliver a guidance service, but when this is spread across 1540 students it is a challenge to support in the way that one would wish to.” (Jules White, Headteacher, Tanbridge House School)

Given there is widespread agreement that good careers guidance is important why aren’t we seeing more progress?

In 2001, circa £450m[i] was spent annually on career services for young people in England. By 2011, this was reduced to £196m and today this figure is circa £100m. Of this, less than 1% goes to schools and colleges to enable them to purchase careers advisers’ expertise. They must buy in from external providers, or develop their own in-house provision.

At a time of ‘little extras’ and stringent cuts in education and local authority budgets, many schools and colleges are increasingly unable to afford career guidance for their students.

In 2014, the Coalition Government supported and funded the setting up of the privately owned Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC) to lead on this. The remit was to co-ordinate activities, where appropriate. It was designed not be a direct delivery organisation, or act in competition with the many existing providers in the market.

The Education Select Committee first raised concerns about the quango’s limited impact, high salaries and value for money. What began as an innovative experiment seems to have metamorphosed into an unnecessary layer of expensive bureaucracy. In some cases, the CEC competes and duplicates the work of local and national organisations and charities working with young people and employers – using government funding to do so.

What matters most is providing young people with the high quality impartial and independent careers guidance they need. There is compelling evidence that schools can’t afford to do this for their students.

DfE has allocated £70.1m[ii] to the Careers and Enterprise Company (CEC) to develop an Enterprise Passport, a mentoring service, issue grants, and ‘strategic’ support for schools and colleges to deliver on the Gatsby benchmarks. In the national roll out of the Gatsby benchmarks it appears that only £1k direct funding is available for circa 800 schools, with no money for the other circa 2,500. In contrast, schools and colleges in the North East, who piloted the benchmarks received £9k+ direct from Gatsby, this allowed them to deliver the benchmarks successfully.

In a recent positive move the DfE has acknowledged the importance of professional training and support for careers’ practitioners. They have supported training for some teachers within Careers Hubs over the next two years with a further £2.5m towards improving personal guidance for young people.

Given the Select Committee’s comments about CEC high salaries, it is surprising to see this week three jobs being advertised, including Head of Digital – £80k – £90k and a Deputy CEO est. £67k – £117k – a higher rate than many headteachers[iii]. Unlike schools, colleges and the National Careers Service, the CEC is not subject to any Ofsted inspection or regulation to ensure consistency, quality and accountability. For example:

National Careers Service – area-based contract EFSA  2018 – 2021 (work with adults)

Careers and Enterprise Company  2018-2019 Grant letter (work with schools and colleges)
£45m£28.4m and given an extra £5m (Oct, 2018)
Ofsted inspected       ✔Ofsted inspected    
Quality standards     ✔Quality standards  
Payment by Results   ✔Payment by Results
Customer satisfaction rating 90%+Customer satisfaction rating 70%+

The company was intended to be self-sustaining[iv] and this year’s DfE £28.4 m grant (plus an extra £5m[v]) shows it has yet to achieve this.

There is no doubt that when it comes to careers provision for young people schools are being expected to do far more with far less. Questions need to be answered: What impact is the CEC actually having on the lives of young people? What exactly are schools and colleges getting to help them meet their new Statutory Duties?

At a time when schools and colleges are desperate for money, it’s time to review how government can ensure impartial and independent career guidance to our 2.9 million young people having to make crucial decisions with little support.


Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE

Chair, National Careers Council (2012-14)


Associate Fellow, University of Warwick, Institute for Employment Research (IER)

Tel: 07533 545057

Email: [email protected]

[i] The Connexions service, part of the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), was launched nationally in April 2001 with an annual budget of £450m. See also: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2004/apr/10/childrensservices.society

[ii] The original intention from government was to give £20m for start up in 2015-2016 – Extract taken from Hansard – Rt Hon. Nicky Morgan 10th December 2014  ‘Preparing Young People for Work’ Vol. 589 – https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2014-12-10/debates/14121029000003/PreparingYoungPeopleForWork.

Company House records show a Government Grant of £20.9m (2015-2017). Followed by Government Grant of £15.7m (2017-2018) – Extract from CEC Annual Report (p.60) https://www.careersandenterprise.co.uk/sites/default/files/uploaded/1039_the_careers_enterprise_company_annual_report_1018_digital_2.pdf A further Government Grant Letter £28.4m was issued (2018-2019). Followed by an announcement by Rt Hon Damien Hinds at the Conservative Party Conference to allocate an extra £5m to the CEC to extend Career Hubs from 20 – 40 in geographical areas – see (iv) below

[iii] Headteachers’ average salary – £50,763



[iv] https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2014-12-10/debates/14121029000003/PreparingYoungPeopleForWork – “The Government will support the new company with start-up funding in 2015-16, the cost of which will be met from the £20 million announced by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor in last week’s autumn statement. Some £5 million of this will constitute an investment fund to support innovation and stimulate good practice across the country. In the longer term, the company will sustain itself.” Parliament, 10th December 2014. See also: https://schoolsweek.co.uk/claudia-harris-ceo-careers-and-enterprise-company/ (March 2018)

[v] Damien Hinds, Secretary of State for Education – announcement of an extra £5m at this year’s Conservative Conference – https://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/school-funding-cuts-damian-hinds-education-secretary-conservative-party-conference-2018-a8564946.html


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