Baroness Shephard warns random careers advice is stifling young people’s ambitions

Baroness Gillian Shephard at here home in Swaffham. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Baroness Gillian Shephard at here home in Swaffham. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

Former education minister Baroness Shephard of Northwold yesterday warned the 'random' provision of careers advice risks stifling young people's aspirations and damaging the economy.

The Tory peer, who was MP for South-West Norfolk, said that while there had been 'striking progress' in school performance over the last 20 years, careers guidance had gone 'backwards'.

In a Lords debate on preparing young people for the world of work, Lady Shephard

also said a recent Ofsted report, which highlighted the significant under-achievement in some isolated rural and seaside areas, was of real and great concern.

She said there was an urgent need for young people to be given more help in making the right career choices.

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She said: 'I find it hard to believe that the link between aspiration raised by improved educational standards and the need for unwasteful career choices is apparently so ignored by the Government.'

Ministers had chosen to transfer responsibility for careers guidance to schools but without statutory accountability.

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'For young people the result is random and that's not good enough. At the very least the Government should empower Ofsted to inspect all schools for statutory compliance with their careers work.

'Without it, and despite the excellent progress made in so many other policy areas, we risk stifling the very aspirations on which the future of our country depends.'

Lady Shephard also stressed the importance of apprenticeships and urged ministers to set an example by creating more of them in government departments.

Much effort had been made to improve 'the routes for those aspiring to go to university', she said. 'At least the same amount of effort needs now to be made for those who do not. Their choices should not be treated as second best.'

Liberal Democrat Baroness Brinton said good careers advice is critical and the present system is failing too many young people.

She said some schools still refuse to allow brochures from local further education colleges or employers offering apprenticeships into their premises.

'How on earth can our young people and their families come to an informed decision about progression routes if they don't know about them?' she demanded.

Tory Lord Cormack said too many schools regarded careers guidance as a 'sort of add-on extra' when it was 'absolutely crucial'.

He said there should be a requirement on secondary schools to have not only careers staff but also a careers panel drawn from the local community and businesses to show what work opportunities are on offer.

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