What is the Baker Clause? Why was it described as the “law without teeth” in its first iteration?
The Baker Clause was an amendment to the Technical and Further Education Act 2017 introduced on 2 January 2018. The purpose of the Baker Clause was to address skills shortages experienced across several sectors of the UK’s economy. –The Baker Clause intended to place statutory duties upon schools to ensure that there is an opportunity for colleges and other training providers to access all pupils in years 8 to 13 for the purpose of informing them about approved technical education qualifications or apprenticeships.
However, the original iteration of the Baker Clause was lacking in clearly defined minimum requirements and within a year of the introduction of the Baker Clause a report published by the Institute for Public Policy Research concluded that only a ‘few schools are complying with their statutory duties set out in the Baker Clause’ and some commentators went as far as to describe the Baker Clause as the “law without teeth”
A Change in the Law - The Skills and Post-16 Education Act 2022
In reaction to the deficiencies identified, new legislation in the form of the Skills and Post-16 Education Act 2022 (the ‘Act’) was recently enacted on 28 April 2022 with the aim of ensuring that the Baker Clause is now legally enforceable.
Most notably, the amendments establish a specific set of minimum legal requirements for provider access, as set out below:
- The obligation on schools to give providers access to their registered pupils has been qualified to include a minimum of ‘at least three occasions during each of the first, second and third key phase of their education’;
- Schools need to ensure that each registered pupil meets (our emphasis added) with a representative range of education and training providers to whom access is given and that the providers are providing the following set of prescribed information:
- information about the provider and the approved technical education qualifications or apprenticeships that the provider offers;
- information about the careers to which those technical education qualifications or apprenticeships might lead;
- a description of what learning or training with the provider is like; and
- responses to questions from the pupils about the provider or technical education qualifications and apprenticeships.
- The level of access has been qualified further and must be ‘for a reasonable period of time during the standard school day’;
- The requirement to provide access to a representative range of education of training providers will need to include, where practicable, a university technical college;
- School policy statement’s must now include ‘an explanation of how the proprietor proposes to comply with the obligations’ of the Baker Clause;
- The proposed amendments will insert clear definitions for each ‘key phase’ of a pupil’s education:
- First Key Phase: the period beginning at the same time as the school year in which the majority of pupils in the pupil’s class attain the age of 13 and ending with 28 February in the following school year;
- Second Key Phase: the period beginning at the same time as the school year in which the majority of pupils in the pupil’s class attain the age of 15 and ending with 28 February in the following school year; and
- Third Key Phase: the period beginning at the same time as the school year in which the majority of pupils in the pupil’s class attain the age of 17 and ending with 28 February in the following school year.
Key Action Points for Education Providers
There is certainly a heightened focus afforded to careers guidance currently existing within the education sector - the expectancy is that increased scrutiny of non-compliance will follow the enactment of the clearer set parameters of the Act.
Significantly, Ofsted has updated its school inspection handbook to clarify that inspectors will always report where a school falls short of the requirements of the provider access legislation (i.e. the Baker Clause) as well as considering how it affects a school’s inspection grade.
With the Institute for Public Policy Research having already identified low compliance across the sector prior to the Act’s amendments coming into force, now presents a good time for education provider’s to be proactive in familiarising themselves with the statutory duties, assessing their own compliance with the same and obtaining appropriate advice where necessary.