New requirement for state-funded schools to give access to training providers - have you published your policy statement?

As reported in our December bulletin, from 2 January 2018 state-funded schools have a new statutory obligation to enable a range of education and training providers to access registered pupils in years 8 – 13 to inform them about approved technical education qualifications or apprenticeships.  School proprietors are required to prepare and publish a policy statement setting out the circumstances in which such access will be given. Recent press reports claim that a number of schools have yet to publish their policy statements.  Have you done yours yet?

The duty is set out at Section 42B of the Education Act 1997 and applies to all academies and maintained schools without exception.  School proprietors must “ensure that there is an opportunity for a range of education and training providers to access registered pupils”.  Schools are not required to accept every request from a provider to visit; however they must demonstrate through their policy statement that a number of opportunities are available to all pupils in each year group from years 8 to 13. School proprietors should not do anything which might limit the ability of pupils to be involved in for example by restricting invitations to selected groups of pupils, or holding events outside of normal school hours.

For LA maintained schools, the responsibility for the statement rests with the Governing Body; for academies, the academy trust.  Multi-academy trusts may wish to issue a trust-wide model policy for each academy to adapt. The statement must be published and it is envisaged that this will be on the school’s website.  The policy may be reviewed and amended by the school proprietor at any time and it is recommended that this is done annually. The DfE has published revised statutory guidance on careers guidance (“Careers guidance and access for education and training providers”) which includes practical details of how to implement the new requirement and  an example policy statement.

The guidance expects that the ‘opportunity to access’ includes: a visit from a Studio School to inform key stage 4 choices; a visit from a University Technical College to inform key stage 4 and key stage 5 choices; and visits from a range of providers of apprenticeships and technical options, including an FE college, to inform key stage 4, key stage 5 and post-18 choices.   Exceptions would be where there is no such provider in the area that pupils could reasonably be expected to consider attending due to the travelling distance involved.

The statement must include procedural requirements; grounds for granting and refusing requests for access; and details of premises or facilities to be provided.  It is suggested that schools manage the potential burden by proactively arranging events and inviting multiple providers to attend and present. The opportunity to present should be “meaningful” and not simply a ‘tick-box’ exercise.

In the event of suspected non-compliance, the DfE expects the parties to try to resolve the matter locally: possibly through the school’s / academy trust’s published complaints procedure. If a complaint remains unresolved, the DfE can consider whether the school’s statutory policies meet current education legislation and whether they have been adhered to and if fault is found, take remedial action.

Further guidance on this topic, along with an example of a policy statement, can be found in the DfE statutory guidance: Careers guidance provision for young people in schools.

The law and practice referred to in this article or webinar has been paraphrased or summarised. It might not be up-to-date with changes in the law and we do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided at the time of reading. It should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice in relation to a specific set of circumstances.

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