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North East schools should follow law and promote technical career options

A leading North East college is calling for more local schools to stop disregarding a legal obligation and allow other education providers to access pupils to promote technical qualifications.

Gateshead College is supporting the findings and recommendations produced by the IPPR think-tank, calling for the DfE and Ofsted to crackdown on schools that are failing to enable pupils to hear about alternatives to A-Levels.

One year since the ‘Baker Clause’ was introduced within the Technical and Further Education Act 2017, secondary schools across England have been required to allow other education and training providers access to their pupils to inform them of technical and vocational qualifications. This is part of a wider government drive to transform the technical education system, making it more attractive to young people.

According to newly published research by the IPPR, compliance with the Baker Clause remains very poor, with just two in five schools complying with the requirements of the legislation. Most vocational providers say it has made no difference.
Gateshead College, which contributed to the research, reports that the legislation has had some impact but too many schools remain either indifferent or obstructive.

Judith Doyle, principal and CEO at Gateshead College, said: “We have great working relationships with certain schools, but the picture is very patchy, and we still encounter resistance from too many schools. It is time to ensure that every school complies with the law; it is in the best interests of the pupils.”

Internal research produced by Gateshead College among its own intake of students who started courses last September reveals that only 28pc of 16-18-year olds were given advice about apprenticeships from their school. Of the 395 students taking part in this research, 56pc were recommended to choose one option more than any other, and in most cases, this was A-Levels compared to only 10pc for vocational courses. Around 45pc of students felt they did not have enough information to make informed decisions about what to do after GCSEs.

Judith Doyle added: “The Baker Clause was designed to mitigate against the financial incentive for schools to retain students in their own sixth forms and discourage them from following vocational routes.

“Our own local research combined with the new national findings of the IPPR mean young people and their parents are not getting good, independent fact-based careers advice. How can they make informed decisions if they’re not presented with all the career options available to them?

“We really want to work with schools to help them meet these obligations. I hear every day from business leaders that having a skilled workforce is crucial to their business success and the low participation in technical education is a major barrier to this.”