Most schools are not meeting their statutory obligations to facilitate access to their pupils by technical and vocational education providers, according to new research from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

Introduced as part of the Technical and Further Education Act 2017, the so called ‘Baker clause’ (named after former education secretary Lord Baker) aims to ensure technical and vocational education providers can access schools in order to inform pupils of their options. It stipulates that schools have a statutory duty to ensure that ‘a range of education and training providers’ have access to pupils from Year 8 to Year 13, and requires schools to publish a ‘provider access statement’ on their website setting out their arrangements for facilitating such access. The Baker clause came into effect in January 2018.

A year on from its introduction, the IPPR have produced a research report The Baker Clause: One Year On which suggest most schools are not complying with the clause. As part of their research the IPPR contacted 101 schools – 10 selected randomly in each region of England, and the remainder from the constituencies of the secretary of state for education (Damian Hinds) and the minister of state for apprenticeships and skills (Anne Milton). Schools which did not have a ‘provider access statement’ visible on their website, and which did not respond when contacted for futher information, were assumed not to be complying. This found that overall fewer than two in five (37.6 per cent) of the schools surveyed were complying with the Baker clause.

They also conducted an online survey of 68 technical education providers in England, including FE colleges and university technical colleges (UTCs). This found that just over 70 per cent of providers surveyed felt they had found it difficult to access local schools to talk to pupils about what they offer. Meanwhile, fewer than a third of the providers (31.3 per cent) said it had become easier to access schools since the introduction of the Baker clause. Some providers also commented that they perceived that when they did access schools they were often only allowed to speak to a selection of pupils, particularly those who performed less well in academic subjects, and those that schools did not wish to attend their own sixth forms.

In the report the IPPR make recommendations as to how the Baker clause could be made to work more effectively. They suggest that enforcement of the clause should be strengthened, including for Ofsted to be responsible for assessing compliance with the Baker clause as part of a new category on careers guidance. They also call for more robust enforcement action from the Department for Education (DfE). The IPPR also urge the creation of a single UCAS-style online portal to enable young people to find out about all the education and training options in their local area, and for local authorities to write to parents ‘at key points’ to inform them of the options available to their child, including technical and vocational education. The report notes that the school funding system, with schools largely funded on a per pupil basis, incentives schools to try to retain as many of their own pupils as possible at transition points. Acknowledging the funding constraints schools are under, the  IPPR also call for the DfE to better resource schools to deliver effective careers education, information, advice and guidance. (CEIAG)

Full report available at: https://tinyurl.com/y8c74nqh

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