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Schools 'failing on careers advice'

Careers advice for many teenagers is a "tick box exercise squeezed into a lunchtime break", according to Nick Clegg.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem leader is due to announce that schools are to face tougher requirements to provide decent careers guidance to pupils.

He will also suggest that local employers should be represented on every school governing body and that secondary schools should be made to publish more information about what their students go on to do after age 16.

In a speech to around 500 young people at Southfields Academy, south London, Mr Clegg is due to unveil measures which he says will help stop young people becoming 'NEET' (not in education, employment or training).

He cites a recent Ofsted study which found that just one in five schools were giving all of their pupils detailed career support.

"For a lot of the young people I meet, careers guidance currently feels like a tick box exercise squeezed into lunchtime break with a busy teacher, who no doubt already has a lot on their plate," Mr Clegg says.

"So, we are issuing new guidance for schools, in the next few weeks, that will set out just what good careers advice should look like. And not take-it-or-leave-it guidance. To make sure it's being followed, Ofsted will be looking more closely at the quality of careers advice and support available when they inspect schools.

"We hope this guidance will give every student guaranteed access to the best-quality careers advice available, whether that is face-to-face, online or via the phone. And one of the most important changes we're introducing is that schools will have a new responsibility to develop close links with employers, across their local area."

Schools are being given the flexibility to decide how they can provide the level of careers advice and guidance that Ofsted is looking for, Mr Clegg insisted.

But he adds: "If it still feels like young people aren't getting the support they need, there are some specific things that I would like us to do in the next Parliament.

"This includes encouraging a representative for local employers to sit on every school governing body and that also every school collects and publishes more detailed, up-to-date information about their pupils' destinations post-16. This is to ensure more schools can be judged not only on their students' exam results, but also on what they do after they leave."

Under the current system, figures are already published by the Government on what sixth-formers are doing for the six months after they leave school or college.

Mr Clegg will also use his speech to announce moves to allow young people to gain help at Jobcentres from age 16.

"Right now, if you're 16 or 17, and looking for work, you can't go to your local Jobcentre for advice about how to find a job. The rules say that you can only go to Jobcentre Plus at 18 or above. That just seems wrong. Surely we should be getting in there early and supplying you with the support you need right now to get into training or work.

"So I'm pleased to announce that Government will now be testing a new approach in selected Jobcentres across Britain. This, for the first time, will give 16 and 17-year-olds access to personalised jobs advice and support through Jobcentre Plus."

Around 3,000 16 and 17-year-olds will take part in pilots.

Today's speech is part of a week-long charm offensive intended to show support for young people.

Earlier this week the Deputy Prime Minister appealed to would-be students not to be put off going to university by "myths" about the costs as he sought to win back votes lost by the Liberal Democrat's U-turn on raising tuition fees.

He said "wild" predictions that charging up to £9,000 per year would make degrees a "luxury" for the rich had proved unfounded - with applications from poorer households rising - and sought to pin the credit on measures he championed to mitigate the impact of the fee rise, which was in breach of his party's 2010 election promise and for which he issued a public apology.

Neil Carberry, CBI director for employment and skills policy, said: "The CBI has long called for a UCAS-style system for vocational qualifications.

"This is a major step forward in making vocational routes more visible and will help put it on a level footing with more traditional academic routes.

"Supporting 16 and 17-year-olds through Jobcentre Plus to break into the world of work is overdue.

"With too many young people still unemployed, Jobcentres will need to hit the ground running and tailor help to meet the needs of the local economy.

"The Government is right to focus on improving careers advice as it remains on life support.

"Schools cannot do it alone and employers have a key role to play in inspiring young people and preparing them for the workplace."

Mr Clegg said youngsters who chose not to go to university will be offered an online service to guide them on the best work and training opportunities, similar to the Ucas system which helps more academic teenagers choose a higher education course.

He told ITV1's Daybreak: "It's a good thing if you want to go to university, but if you don't want to go to university, the choices are really confusing at the moment. So we are going to bring all the information together in a Ucas-style service for 16-year-olds who can go online and it's really simple to make the choices that you've got ahead of you."

Teenagers without English and maths qualifications going to job centres will be offered help in these subjects - and could lose benefits if they refuse it.

Mr Clegg attacked the "snobbery" which regards vocational training as less worthy than academic study.

He told Sky News's Sunrise: "What we have done wrong as a country is that for too long we've sent out the message to young people towards the end of their time at school that the only really good thing to do after school is to go to university and to do an academic qualification.

"I think that's a sort of barely-concealed form of snobbery, because there are lots of youngsters who are really bright... who might want to do a more practical vocational qualification and we need to give the same esteem to their choices as we give to youngsters who go to university."

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said: "We welcome the returning focus to those students who leave school for work and training rather than university. They have too often been an afterthought in recent Government education policy.

"However, it is no good to systematically dismantle careers services and then impose additional demands on schools to provide careers advice.

"Schools want to ensure every student goes on to flourish after their time there; teachers do their best.

"However, they lack the information about careers and labour market trends, they lack the networks with employers nationwide.

"Above all, they lack time and resources. Let's remember that over the next few years schools are implementing new qualifications, a new curriculum, new provisions for special need students and a new pay framework.

"It is easy to demand more of schools. It is much harder to provide the systematic support schools need to do these many tasks well."

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