Schools must allow access to apprenticeship providers and colleges and give equal airtime to the non-academic routes pupils can take post-16, under government plans to end the ‘second class’ perception of technical and professional education.

A new law would see apprenticeship providers and staff from colleges visit schools as part of careers advice from early secondary school, to talk to pupils about the opportunities open to them through apprenticeships or other routes.

The move follows concerns from ministers about careers advice, with some schools currently unwilling to recommend apprenticeships or other technical and professional routes to any but the lowest-achieving pupils – effectively creating a two-tiered system of careers advice.

“For many young people going to university will be the right choice, and we are committed to continuing to expand access to higher education, but for other young people the technical education provided by apprenticeships will suit them better. That’s why I’m determined to tackle the minority of schools that perpetuate an outdated snobbery towards apprenticeships by requiring those schools to give young people the chance to hear about the fantastic opportunities apprenticeships and technical education offer,” said Nicky Morgan, Education Secretary.

While some schools already work extensively with other providers to secure effective careers provision, in other areas current practice is being used to reinforce the impression that technical and professional education and apprenticeships are second best to academic study at General Certificate of Education Advanced level A level and university.

The new legislation will mean schools will be required by law to collaborate with colleges, university technical colleges and other training providers to ensure that young people are aware of all the routes to higher skills and the workplace, including higher and degree apprenticeships.

Martin Doel, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), said: “To make informed choices for the future, young people need high-quality, impartial careers information about all post-16 education and training options, including apprenticeships and technical and professional education.

We have long been calling for an improvement to the system and welcome the changes outlined. Colleges recognise the critical nature of good careers education and will be very keen to continue to work together with their local schools. This announcement will make that a reality.”

The government will look to bring in the legislation at the earliest opportunity, with more information to be set out in the forthcoming careers strategy.

The announcement builds on reforms implemented during the last parliament to strip out low-quality qualifications from performance tables and follows the launch of a new independent expert panel led by Lord Sainsbury, which will look at how we can set England’s technical and professional education system on a par with the best in the world.

Provisional figures released this week indicated an increase in the number of young people, aged under 19, earning and learning on apprenticeships, and also growth in higher level apprenticeships. School leavers now have more choice than ever before, as more and more top employers launch apprenticeship and traineeship programmes in professions ranging from law to TV production.

The government is committed to delivering three million apprenticeships by 2020, and £70 million to a careers strategy over this Parliament to transform the quality of the careers education, advice and guidance offered to young people and help improve their life changes, as well as support economic growth.