Following the government's announcement last week about a National Careers Service, school leaders are backing calls from Careers England for the government to act quickly to ensure that young people in England continue to have access to a professional, impartial careers workforce and a properly resourced professional careers service.
In a statement from the Department for Business and Innovation Skills on 13 April, it was revealed a National Careers Service would be established from April 2012 to the tune of £84.4m (compared with £200m previously provided).
As well as providing free face-to-face guidance to priority groups, the network of organisations, funded by BIS, will offer services on the open market to those individuals/organisations that are willing to pay.
Subject to passage of the education bill, from September 2012 schools will be under a legal duty to make sure their pupils have access to independent, impartial careers guidance, recognising that schools are best placed to make decisions about the kind of support that will meet the needs of their pupils.
Schools will be free to make arrangements for careers guidance that best suit the needs of their pupils, engaging, where appropriate, in partnership with external, expert providers.
To ensure the quality of careers guidance, BIS is working with the support of the careers professional associations to establish a quality standard for providers of careers guidance.
Schools pay for career services
In a review of the government's policy on careers advice, Careers England called for a number of steps to be taken that include not only establishing a National Careers Service (NCS), but also persuading schools to pay for services they have previously received free of charge.
Allister McGowan, chairman of the board of Careers England, said there were pressing matters for the government to address covered in the review, including "urgent issues of transition from current arrangements and statutory duties to the new proposals for careers services for all age groups, alongside the need for absolute clarity about the support to be available to young people in schools in the future."
While he said the announcement last week clarified some of these issues, it raised alarm on others.
"At a time of growing youth unemployment, the serious cuts by many local authorities to the Connexions Services - which it remains their statutory duty to provide until the new laws are in place - risk exacerbating the damage to many young lives."
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) is backing calls from Careers England for the government to act quickly.
"We have serious concerns about whether the government is working fast enough to implement a National Careers Service, and whether it is committed to funding it at a viable level," commented general secretary Brian Lightman.
"We, along with Careers England, want reassurance as soon as possible that sufficient progress is being made."
Meanwhile, Unison says government plans for the new careers service are "set up to fail, high on rhetoric and low on detail".
"The only clear detail is the drastically reduced resources available," said senior national officer Jon Richards.
"With current services evaporating before our eyes, the lack of any transition plan that would ensure compliance with statutory duties in the meantime, or details on service level agreements, makes it look like the government are fiddling while Rome burns."