The Blog

Time for a Level Playing Field on Post-16 Education Options

Hearing the news recently that the Government plans to bring in legislation around the provision of careers advice to students surrounding their post-16 options came as a real boost to everyone connected with Further Education.

Essentially, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, who outlined the proposal, will be enforcing schools to provide impartial advice to all learners, offering them a complete spectrum of choice when taking their first steps after GCSEs.

The ambition is to close down the current two-tier system of advice in some establishments, where apprenticeships and technical training have historically been viewed as a last resort for learners without the aspirations to achieve academic success.

Working in tandem with this new approach to careers guidance is the current Government's stated commitment to apprenticeships, with funding in place for 3 million new placements by 2020 - something that is also on the local agenda currently with the first ever National Apprenticeship Show coming to Milton Keynes in March, but I'll save that for another time.

On the one hand, it seems disappointing that ruling in this way is needed in regards to the provision of careers advice, when surely the needs of learners should always be first on the minds of those dispensing the guidance.

However, and perhaps more importantly, it is certainly encouraging to have this topic of conversation at the front of the minds of those making decisions and it should certainly create more opportunities for Colleges such as ours to demonstrate the wealth of options available to students beyond the tried-and-tested academic approach.

That said, we're proud to believe that we're ahead of the game in this respect, having invested time, energy and resources into developing our relationships with schools in our community and building a strong network of support for young people in Milton Keynes.

I'm not entirely sure that the aforementioned second-class view of technical education has been completely eradicated in our locality as we still see an extremely high number of seventeen-year-olds coming to us after a year of A Levels looking to change direction. This shows that we still have a great opportunity to reach more young people and their families to show that the outdated view of Further Education and apprenticeships being a back-up plan is as archaic as chalkboards and typewriters.

Only time will tell how effective the new legislation on careers education will prove to be, but it's great that this critically important subject, and the affect it may have on the future of students, is right up there on the topical agenda.