On 2nd January 2018, the Baker Clause comes into force across England and Wales, effectively forcing all schools to open their doors to FE, apprenticeship and alternative 14-16 training providers, so that they have access to speak with students from Years 8-13 about their offer at 14-16, post-16 and post-18, a move expected to be met with opposition by many school leaders.

On the one hand, this is hardly surprising; schools are increasingly under pressure with performance measures like the Progress 8 and Ebacc and no doubt find the idea of giving UTCs, FE Colleges and apprenticeships providers an open invitation to pitch alternatives to school/sixth form to their best and brightest a relatively galling prospect. As for the opposing argument, with organisations like UTCs struggling to recruit and the government’s push for an increase in uptake of technical education and apprenticeships coupled with accusations of a lack of impartial careers guidance in schools, it is easy to see why the Baker Clause made its way into being.

With all that in mind, what does the Baker Clause hope to achieve and how will schools adapt to what is for some a drastic change in policy?

As Anne Milton MP referenced in her recent speech, vocational options have often been treated with indifference within the education system, an attitude the government is seemingly determined to change.

Although it is understandable for schools to want to hold on to their students, particularly given the recent incentives announced for retaining A-Level Maths students, the fact that a fifth of students nationwide drop out of sixth form prior to completing their A-Levels seems to suggest that traditional academic pathways are not always the answer for all students and inviting in alternative providers and employers with apprenticeship programmes may help to avoid the ‘square peg, round hole’ scenario that some students who have been encouraged to stay on at school find themselves in each year.

While many school leaders will feel aggrieved at the prospect of being forced to adhere to this new policy, it does present an excellent opportunity for collaborative work that stands to benefit both schools and external providers. With the government’s recently announced careers strategy placing an expectation on schools to deliver at least one meaningful interaction with businesses every year, schools may find there is much to be gained by working together with local technical education providers to meet both their commitment to the Baker Clause and facilitate a greater number of employer engagement activities each year.

For example, UTC Leeds recently held a series of events called ‘Ingenuity and Beyond, involving a variety of workshops and activities related to careers in space, featuring speakers from organisations like NASA and CERN and open to schools and members of the local community as well as just students at the college. As invariably not all students will want to attend an Engineering college at 14-16 or 16-18, working together with local providers in this way is clearly an excellent opportunity to personalise learning and careers guidance for specific cohorts of students, surely one of the core aims of any school.

For many careers advisers or middle leaders with a responsibility for careers in schools, the Baker Clause may well feel like covering old ground, as any schools with a focus on quality CEIAG will already hold careers fairs, options evenings, assemblies and transition workshops with the help of FE Colleges, apprenticeships and alternative 14-16 providers. However, given the overall provision of careers guidance in schools has previously been described as ‘patchy’ and with the prospect of schools funnelling Year 11 students into their sixth forms still a legitimate concern, the Baker Clause seems a relatively reasonable (and achievable) demand for schools to adhere to.

As for schools, like or not, the Baker Clause is here to stay, so for those planning to hold off on enacting the policy, their energies may be better spent attempting to work collaboratively with local providers in order to balance the needs of the school while giving their students the opportunity to see all of the options available to them at key transition points in their education.

Chris Webb – CEIAG Coordinator/Careers Adviser – The Ruth Gorse Academy, Leeds

A registered career development professional and member of the Career Development Institute, Chris has previously worked for education institutions in secondary education, FE and HE as a Functional Skills Tutor, Study Programme Coordinator and Careers Adviser.

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