Many schools have their own in-house provision of post-16 education that they would rather protect from competition, while school league tables may have also encouraged a stigma to develop around apprenticeships. A recent University of Sheffield study into apprenticeships speculated for instance that as schools are judged primarily on A-Level results and progression rates to university there is a pressure exerted on them to reinforce the privileging of academic qualifications, and therefore university over other forms of further education.
From January 2018 however, further education providers, including apprenticeship providers, will be able to demand access to school pupils as result of the so-called ‘Baker Clause’ of the Technical and Further Education Bill.
Lord Baker’s clause demands that each school must have devised a policy over the summer period that will allow for a range of providers to come in and talk to students directly about their offering. If a school refuses to allow access, the Secretary of State for Education now has the power to intervene.
Apprenticeships have such an instrumental role to play in creating opportunities for young people and it is vital that we do more to promote their worth to them. To do this, however, it is also vital that apprenticeship providers use their new rights of access and continue to go above and beyond to appeal to young people.
Until the Baker’s Clause is seen in action, it is hard to determine how effective it will be. If it really does mean that even a small number of extra students are told about apprenticeships that will be worth celebrating.