School-based careers guidance and the implications for race equality in England
Dr Charlotte Chadderton
Cass School of Education and Communities
This paper considers the implications for race equality of school-based careers guidance. In the context of the Coalition Government’s focus on school autonomy and a marketised approach to education, the Education Act 2011 handed over responsibility for careers work in England from local authorities to schools, coming into force from September 2012. In the past, careers work had been the responsibility of local authority funded careers services and, from 2001–11, of Connexions, the holistic support service whose remit was to provide all kinds of Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) to young people. There is a brief mention of stereotypes in the new guidelines for schools, but the focus is on gender and actual guidance is vague or non-existent (DfE 2017).
In the last 30 years in England there has been increased academic attention on race (in)equality in education, with significant work carried out on the impact of race on educational experiences, student attainment, teacher expectations and educational identities (e.g. Gillborn, 2008). However, comparatively little attention has been paid to issues of race in careers education and guidance. Whilst there is some recognition among academics that structural issues such as class and gender play a role in shaping a person’s aspirations, educational and careers decisions, as well as the type of careers input they receive (e.g. Hooley and Sultana, 2016; Roberts, 2005), the role of race in careers work has been somewhat neglected. In particular, work which takes a sociology of race perspective is rare. Whist there is some acknowledgement in academia and the media that the labour market and vocational training routes are racially stratified (e.g. Roediger, 1991; Chadderton and Wischmann, 2014; Hughes, 2015), this is seldom connected to careers work with young people, with studies on careers work and race being few and far between (Cross, Wrench and Barnett, 1990; Mirza, 1992; Stitt-Gohdes, 1997; Beck, Fuller and Unwin, 2006). In this seminar I will draw on useful insights from Critical Race Theory (CRT) to argue that new arrangements for careers guidance in England, which have shifted responsibility for careers work to schools, largely ignore structural issues which shape and constrain individuals’ lives, do nothing to address race inequality in vocational education and the labour market and potentially reinforce white privilege.
Drawing on evidence from recent projects conducted in schools in East London (2014-17), I argue that school-based careers education programmes remain neoliberal in nature and as recommended in the government guidelines, focus mostly on individual aspirations and engagement with employers. Activities focus mostly on raising student aspirations and routes to the most elite universities, often calling up longstanding postcolonial stereotypes by positioning minority ethnic students as needing empowerment or liberation from their ‘communities’ by white teachers. Whilst there is some understanding among teachers that students’ choices are constrained rather than free, these are seen to be constrained by students’ families, or ‘communities’ and the role of the school is perpetuating racial othering is ignored. Without claiming that careers education has the power to change wider racial structures, the paper makes some tentative suggestions for change informed by critical race pedagogies (e.g. Lynn and Jennings, 2009).
This seminar will be of interest to researchers, teacher educators, PGCE and Education Studies students, careers guidance practitioners, those delivering ‘employability’ programmes, and all those interested in social justice and race equality.