The reality of the political drive to privatise education in England is becoming real.
Young people have traditionally had access to careers guidance and advice through a national careers service, although under the past Labour government this was reorganised into a series of private companies, generally called Connexions, that bid for contracts based on client services. Now, despite some requirements for schools to provide careers advice, the central contracts for Connexions services have been withdrawn.
Nearly every carers organisation has announced major redundancies, a number have simply collapsed. Most of the remaining services have rebranded as CX instead of the clumsy Connexions name.
However new business models remain elusive. Whilst competition for remaining public funding is fierce, many of the companies have formed alliances to bid for resources. Most are trying to sell services but this is resulting in an over crowded market, especially as media and other organisations start moving in.
Many are also considering offering paid for services. One careers company in south east England is now targeting their web site at parents and carers, offering careers interviews for their child at £50 or a psychometric test for £90 with a follow up meeting to look at the results for a further £30.
It can be argued that the quality of careers provision has been variable in the past, not helped by frequent changes in policy and funding mechanisms. And I suppose the level of charges will certainly put pressure on the organisations to provide high quality services. Yet access to these services will now be dependent on income and it is likely that the clients who have gained most from careers services in the past – NEETs and those with low educational attainments – will be the very ones with parents unable to afford such services.
And I fear this will also be so for other sections of education as privatisation moves forward.
It is important to note that the changes described above only apply to England – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have maintained a public careers service.