Image: Andrew Bowden Image: Andrew Bowden

Some of the UK's leading business organisations are backing an MPs call for improved careers guidance in schools.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), and manufacturers' organisation the EEF have co-signed a letter to education secretary Nicky Morgan, penned by Beverley and Holderness MP, Graham Stuart.

The letter asks for statutory guidance to be amended so that all schools are required to work to obtain a quality award for careers education, information, advice and guidance that meets an approved standard determined by the Department for Education.

The business leaders agree that the statutory guidance, which only recommends that schools should work towards a careers quality mark that satisfies an approved standard, is too weak and is therefore ignored by too many schools.

The letter says: "The central problem facing careers education is that schools are not incentivised to take careers advice seriously. In our high stakes education system, school leaders will understandably prioritise those issues that will lead to serious consequences if they fail to deliver them. Careers advice does not fall into this category.

"Having made it compulsory for schools to meet an agreed quality standard, the appetite for high quality careers provision would leap among school leaders."

Graham Stuart, who chaired the Education Select Committee from 2010 to 2015 and now chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group for Careers Information, Advice and Guidance, said: "Young people have never faced a greater variety of choices in their post-14 education, but a series of reports, including from Oftsted, the Education Select Committee and the National Careers Council, have expressed serious concern that the quality of careers information, advice and guidance in ours schools isn't good enough. Without this, too many young people end up on the wrong courses and either in the wrong job or not in work at all.

"There is no silver bullet to improve careers education. But both business and careers experts alike agree making this change would encourage England's schools to up their game - and better prepare their pupils to make a success of their lives."

Martin McTague, policy director at the FSB, said: "Schools are under a lot of pressure to deliver on a wide range of fronts, so it's not surprising careers advice has slipped down the priority list. But getting good, independent adice at the right time can transform a young person's chances of finding a job they love and fulfilling their potential. We think this change will provide the nudge schools need to up their game - ultimately leading to better long-term outcomes for young people."

Professor Tristram Hooley, from Derby University, said: "Our research on careers quality awards has shown that engaging with a quality award can drive a school to improve their practice in career guidance. It has also shown some positive associations between holding an award and young people's engagement with school, their attainment and positive progression. I think that the quality awards are a really useful tool to help ensure that all young people get access to the best possible support with their career."