Today, youngsters across Sheffield will learn how they have fared with their GCSEs. The decisions they make on the basis of these results will have a major impact on their lives.
There are many choices for young people. Do I get a job and start earning? Do I stay on at school, or enrol at the local FE College or sixth-form College? Do I try to get an apprenticeship?
But there also many conflicting pressures, more so probably than my generation faced when we left school. Parents are always keen to use the benefit of hindsight to try to persuade their children to make sensible, aspirational choices and local employment needs can also create tensions; the young adult who is convinced that he or she wants a career in film or media may not want to listen to the opportunities made available by local engineering companies.
A difficult time, then, for young people as they take their first step into adult life. In this context, one cannot underestimate the importance of high quality, independent information, advice and guidance.
For example, young people need guidance in relation to which institutions best suit their needs post 16. Which school or college will offer all the opportunities they are looking for? What is their track record? Most of our local sixth form schools present a wide range of choices and impressive performance records. Most have enjoyed significant investment in recent years. The future of these institutions is not dependent on planning consents for the conversion of a local warehouse, for instance, as is the case with the planned Chapeltown Academy.
Young people deserve the best. They deserve advice which enables them to see clearly what is best for them, which encourages them to evaluate the offers made by schools and colleges in the cold light of day. This is especially the case when a new institution, untried and untested, is added to the mix. And the need for this advice increases as the Government pursues its atomisation of state education.
Let’s hope that the Government will at some point reflect that good advice is not a bonus, but a necessity, and that its reckless experimentation with free schools makes this even more of an imperative.