Schools expected to open their doors to FE training providers

Students to be informed of a broader range of post-16 options as schools give FE providers access to pupils - thanks to the Baker Clause
1 September 2017

According to a recent YouGov survey, 28% of current school students have never even been spoken to about work-based apprenticeships by their schools and just 8% have been advised to consider them as an alternative to university or full-time work after leaving.

Given that there will be many young people across the UK who have just received their GCSE or A level results contemplating what to do about the future, it is absolutely unacceptable that so many haven’t been given the information with which to make an informed decision.

Apprenticeships offer a wealth of advantages over university education that make them, for many young people, far more worthwhile and rewarding. Not only can students earn while they learn (as opposed to taking on a mountain of debt while they learn at university), but, as a recent Sutton Trust report noted, apprentices also often earn more over the course of their careers than their non-Russell Group university counterparts.

Apprentices are also able to do the job they want to do immediately while they learn, and consequently gain the necessary day-to-day practical working life skills they need to succeed at a much younger age than university students.

In addition, society as a whole may benefit from a higher proportion of apprentice learners due to the role apprenticeship training can play in helping the UK overcome its stagnant productivity and skills-crisis. This is in part why the government has set a target to create 3 million apprenticeships by 2020.

If the 3 million target is to be met however, surely more students have to at least first know about apprenticeships and their potential as an alternative route. 

The problem is that schools have up until now had little incentive to advise young people to take an apprenticeship.

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.