Press release

New law will end 'outdated snobbery' towards apprenticeships

Schools must allow access to apprenticeship providers and colleges to create a level playing field in careers guidance.

young person

Schools must give equal airtime to the non-academic routes pupils can take post-16, under government plans to end the ‘second class’ perception of technical and professional education (TPE).

A new law would see apprenticeship providers and staff from colleges visit schools as part of careers advice from early secondary school, to talk to pupils about the opportunities open to them through apprenticeships or other TPE routes.

The move follows concerns from ministers about careers advice, with some schools currently unwilling to recommend apprenticeships or other technical and professional routes to any but the lowest-achieving pupils - effectively creating a 2-tiered system of careers advice.

This builds on the Prime Minister’s life chances speech in which he set out his ambitions to create an education system fit for the 21st century.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said:

As part of our commitment to extend opportunity to all young people, we want to level the playing field - making sure they are aware of all the options open to them and are able to make the right choice for them.

For many young people going to university will be the right choice, and we are committed to continuing to expand access to higher education, but for other young people the technical education provided by apprenticeships will suit them better.

That’s why I’m determined to tackle the minority of schools that perpetuate an outdated snobbery towards apprenticeships by requiring those schools to give young people the chance to hear about the fantastic opportunities apprenticeships and technical education offer.

Martin Doel, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), said:

To make informed choices for the future, young people need high-quality, impartial careers information about all post-16 education and training options, including apprenticeships and technical and professional education.

We have long been calling for an improvement to the system and welcome the changes outlined. Colleges recognise the critical nature of good careers education and will be very keen to continue to work together with their local schools. This announcement will make that a reality.

We know that some schools are not providing information on the full range of options, for example a school with a sixth form that chooses not to invite a local FE college to speak to young people about the range of academic subjects they offer or the apprenticeships routes that might be better suited to a young person’s long term career goals.

While the best schools already work extensively with other providers to secure effective careers provision, in other areas current practice is being used to reinforce the impression that technical and professional education and apprenticeships are second best to academic study at A level and university

The new legislation will mean schools will be required by law to collaborate with colleges, university technical colleges and other training providers to ensure that young people are aware of all the routes to higher skills and the workplace, including higher and degree apprenticeships.

The government will look to bring in the legislation at the earliest opportunity, with more information to be set out in the forthcoming careers strategy.

The announcement builds on reforms implemented during the last parliament to strip out low-quality qualifications from performance tables and follows the launch of a new independent expert panel led by Lord Sainsbury, which will look at how we can set England’s technical and professional education system on a par with the best in the world.

Notes to editors

The government has already significantly strengthened statutory careers guidance to set clear expectations for schools about the provision of high-quality, impartial careers guidance.

In December 2014 the Secretary of State for Education announced funding to set up a new independent, employer-led careers and enterprise company to take a lead role in transforming the provision of careers, enterprise and employer engagement experiences for young people and act as an umbrella organisation to help employers, schools and colleges and other organisations navigate their way through the existing landscape.

The Careers & Enterprise Company (CEC) has made good progress getting its services up and running in such a short time. In particular:

  • launching its nationwide Enterprise Adviser network in September 2015
  • launching its £5 million ‘careers and enterprise fund’, including a comprehensive study of existing datasets which shows where support is needed most (‘cold spots’), in October 2015
  • publishing its toolkit based on evidence of what works in November 2015

In the coming months CEC will:

  • continue to roll out its Enterprise Adviser network to the remaining local enterprise partnerships
  • announce the successful investment fund bidders (March 2016)
  • launch a series of campaigns to stimulate debate, increase collaboration and raise aspirations

On 11 January 2016 the Prime Minister announced that we are committing £70 million to our careers strategy over this Parliament to transform the quality of the careers education, advice and guidance offered to young people and help improve their life changes, as well as support economic growth.

The government is committed to delivering 3 million apprenticeships by 2020. Provisional figures released this week (21 January 2016) indicated an increase in the number of young people, aged under 19, earning and learning on apprenticeships, and also growth in higher level apprenticeships. School leavers now have more choice than ever before, as more and more top employers launch apprenticeship and traineeship programmes in professions ranging from law to TV production.

DfE enquiries

Published 25 January 2016