Access to coaching and careers advice benefits 14-16 year-olds

Pupils aged 14-16 have benefited from a wider choice of subjects and more learning support since the introduction of a learning pathways framework five years ago. Attendance, behaviour and performance have improved, especially for pupils who face the greatest barriers to learning, such as those from disadvantaged backgrounds or those with special educational needs.

Estyn’s report, Learner support services for pupils aged 14-16, looks at the quality, consistency and impartiality of these services provided to pupils in secondary schools. The services are made up of three elements: learning coaching, personal support and careers guidance. The report found that provision of personal support is the strongest aspect of learner services while the quality of careers advice is the weakest.

Ann Keane, Chief Inspector, said,

“Since the introduction of the Welsh Government’s Learning Pathways framework in 2009, pupils have had better access to services to help support their learning. Even so, around half of pupils still do not achieve 5 good GCSEs including English/Welsh and mathematics, so schools need to focus more on improving attainment.

“I also urge schools to develop the quality of their careers guidance to take into account individual needs. Year 9 is a crucial time in a pupil’s life and they are not receiving advice early enough. Schools should be encouraging pupils to talk about their aspirations and hopes so that they can make informed decisions about their own futures.”

One reason that schools are not providing sufficient careers advice is that the schools have not considered carefully enough how they should replace the services previously carried out by Careers Wales. Inspectors found that in some schools information materials were out of date and staff giving advice lacked regular update training.

Inspectors visited a sample of secondary schools and found that the majority do not co-ordinate effectively enough the three elements of learner support services. Most schools have different members of staff responsible for each area and this limits their ability to evaluate the impact of the services. However, Caerleon Comprehensive School, Newport, has raised standards above the expected level by identifying barriers that prevent pupils from succeeding and effectively managing the support between two teams.

Estyn’s report contains a series of recommendations for schools and local authorities. Schools should take a more strategic approach to learner support services, improve the scope and quality of careers advice and focus services on improving pupils’ attainment of high grades in GCSE English and Mathematics.

Notes to Editors:

About the report

  • This report is published in response to a request for advice from the Welsh Government in the Minister’s annual remit to Estyn for 2013-2014 and is available in full here.
  • This report is the first of two. The second, to be published in 2015 will consider learner support services provided by colleges and work-based learning providers.
  • The report is based on visits to 20 secondary schools, which represent a broadly representative sample of secondary schools. Additional evidence was drawn from inspection outcomes and data on key stage 4 performance, attendance and destinations (see Appendix 1 for further details).

Best practice case studies

  • Maesteg School, Bridgend
  • Cwmtawe Community School, Neath Port Talbot
  • Caerleon Comprehensive School, Newport

About Estyn

Estyn is the Education and Training Inspectorate for Wales. Our aim is to achieve excellence for all in learning in Wales. We do this by providing an independent, high-quality inspection and advice service.

Our vision is to be recognised through the expertise of our staff as an authoritative voice on learning in Wales.

We are independent from, but funded by the Welsh Assembly Government (under Section 104 of the Government of Wales Act 1998).

For further information please visit our website

Publication date

Tuesday, 20 May, 2014