Month: October 2012

Careers meetings – Marketing pitch or IAG sessions?

For all the weaknesses in the Guidance and the Statutory Duty regarding CEIAG (and there are many, discussed by Professor Tony Watts here

http://www.careersengland.org.uk/documents/Public/Policy%20Commentary%2017.pdf

there are some positives.

For me, on initial reading, the actual Duty paragraph was very strong in the expectations it set out for careers work in schools:

STATUTORY DUTY

11. The Education Act 2011 inserts a new duty, section 42A, into Part VII of the

Education Act 1997, requiring schools to secure access to independent careers guidance for pupils in years 9-11. Careers guidance must be presented in an impartial manner and promote the best interests of the pupils to whom it is given. Careers guidance must also include information on all options available in respect of 16-18 education or training, including apprenticeships and other work-based education and training options.  

http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/files/pdf/s/statutory%20guidance%20for%20schools%20on%20careers%20guidance.pdf

With an addition that “impartial” meant

Impartial is defined as showing no bias or favouritism towards a particular education or work option.

Sounds strong doesn’t it. Unambiguous.

If we’re honest, as professionals working in schools, we realise that the spirit and wording of that Duty is an attempt to combat something that has been going on for years in secondary schools across the country. I’m talking about that quiet expectation that Year 11 pupils will continue their studies at the KS5 provision that is attached to the school. Historically, in some schools with an adjoining Sixth Form, an ingrained tradition is allowed to build that there’s no need to consider alternative – that’s where you go from Year 11.

As we move towards a more marketised structure with smaller funding pools from which to draw, that paragraph (and the forthcoming detailed destination measures to be published) should be an important levy against the tide of tradition.

But will it be monitored? Probably not if the utter silence about the duty from the Dfe is anything to go by. It was a Liberal Democrat idea, promoted by the Department of Business Industry & Skills and doesn’t seem to interest Michael Gove or Sir Michael Wilshaw one iota. If Ofsted are not detailed to scrutinise this Duty then the tradition of ‘staying on’ won’t be tackled and will grow to be an expectation.

And this has a consequence on IAG workers. If a school does has a Sixth Form, which needs bums on seats for funding, then is that school going to pay an outside, impartial IAG worker to come in and advise half of Year 11 that the course at the college down the hill is probably a better fit for them? Of course not. But that’s not what I want to focus on. Lot’s of people try to do the best in their jobs in difficult circumstances, so I don’t think crying over the fact lots of IAG workers will basically become part of the marketing team is going to get that much sympathy.

Where it does concern me is what it means for the students. The ones who would benefit from that course at the other college across town. The one’s who would thrive at the other Sixth Form where they would appreciate the different combination of subjects and qualifications, or the different uniform policy or the better standard of facilities in their chosen subject areas.

At this point I’m going to use an example of what I think is inappropriate practice  It’s an open evening advert for two local secondary schools that are part of the local Barnfield Federation. 

Now, it’s important everyone understands this point. I’m not picking on Barnfield. Lot’s of schools do this. Other schools in the town do this. It’s just Barnfield’s bad luck that an interested so and so like me lives in the same town as them. There’s lots I like about the Barnfield Federation. Their FE College and the Studio school are extremely positive local routes, it’s clear that the two Academy schools are raising standards and all their institutions are stuffed with talented people who are genuinely pupil centred.

It’s also worth saying that, with the growth in provision starting at 14 such as Studio schools and University Technical Colleges, this will soon be a challenge I will have to face and start practising what I preach. Gulp.

Because the paragraph in the duty does have a dignity to it. It places the student at the centre of the process and requires the IAG worker to forget about the needs of the institution and work for the leaner. And that’s a very worthwhile thing. 

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Free Careers Resource: Your choice – Your Future: Apprenticeship Careers Lesson Plan

Good face to face information, advice & guidance can only take place if students have a basic level of knowledge of the different routes option to them before they walk into your meeting.

I’ve found this is most difficult to achieve with the apprenticeship route. As it’s still a route for a fewer number of school and college leavers, students don’t soak up information about it like they do for A Levels or regular college courses or University from older friends or brothers and sisters. What knowledge about the Apprenticeship route that is out there amongst parents is massively out of date with what a modern apprenticeship actually is and what work areas are they now being more frequently offered in. Parents that do ask for advice on this route will always ask about vehicle mechanics or construction based apprenticeships. I’ve never had a parent enquire about apprenticeships working in care homes, which is a growing industry locally and we are always informed of opportunities which we struggle to nurture any interest in.

This is where Careers Education comes in and why it was so disappointing that the Dfe removed statutory requirements on schools to provide it.

So here’s some ideas for providing a lesson about apprenticeships for KS4 students to inform them of this route.

  1. Your Choice – Your Future Apprenticeship video. I’ve uploaded this to vimeo. It’s 30 minutes long but a class of 15 year olds will get fidgety after the first couple of interviews – It covers lots of different job areas and there’s a couple of good non stereotypical gender role models there as well. Also, after IAG sessions where the student has expressed an interest in apprenticeships, I sometimes send them this link to their school email address if I’m not convinced that they have fully taken on board how they actually work.

https://vimeo.com/26369606

 

  1. This work book from the National Apprenticeship site has it’s good bits which are worth using and we all know that printing out one of those for each student in a year group will be a huge cost so I have targeted certain pages.

http://www.apprenticeships.org.uk/Partners/~/media/Collateral/IAG/NAS-ApprenticeshipsSchoolWorkbookYears9-11-Aug2012.ashx

The questions on pages 8 & 9 are useful for leading a whole class discussion but this will rely on the teacher doing a bit of prep.

The case studies on pages 23, 24 & 25 are where you could get some small group work going to compare those and then answer the questions on page 26.

If you know of any other useful resources that would excite a year 10 or 11 group then please leave a comment!

Banned: What do you want to be when you leave school?

Look at the choice on offer!

What do you want to be when you’re older?:

It’s a question I regularly hear at options and parents evenings. It usually rears its head after I’ve just finished a talk to a hall full of parents all giving up their time to find out how they can best support their children.

It’s also a question which I think speaks deeply to how adults word and frame their interactions about careers with young people then influences not just the choice the young person makes, but how they make that choice.

Let’s break down what is happening there.

Usually it’s a fourteen or fifteen year old being asked the question. They’re neck high in the swamp of their KS4 qualifications with, if they are lucky, maybe a few weeks of experience in an actual workplace behind them. In front of them, stretching out like an endless ITV Saturday night schedule, are years upon years of a working life which, for many, will go beyond traditional retirement boundaries.

How do they answer that question?

They will know of some job titles. They will have seen the sort of work their close family do (although the number of students who couldn’t tell you what their dad does even though they live under the same roof is frightening) and might understand a few career areas from those experiences.

They could name jobs they have come into contact with in their daily lives; teachers, hairdressers and other personal and retail service occupations. Some of these roles they will come into regular contact with and so, as they have clearer idea of what that job actually involves, they will feel more comfortable including that as a viable option.

They will know of other, perhaps more enticing and exotic, occupations through media influences. The spike in interest from youngsters wanting to pursue careers in forensic science over the past decade is a phenomenon enough people believe in that there must be a kernel of truth to it. There are positives to this input as young minds are tempted to consider possibilities that they normally would not encounter in their circle of movement but negatives as well as these same minds think that working in an A&E means that you will be required to occasionally appear in a suit, reel off a list of medical jargon and then disappear off to the staff room to share lust laden glances with a sexy nurse who you’ve never had the courage to ask out. Or, in other words, fictional TV and film are terrible careers advisers.

And that’s it. For the vast majority of young people these are the main influences on the routes they would consider feasible and possible to them.

Now think of all that is missing from that view of the world of possible careers. These young people will have not the faintest idea of what a “Derma-pigmentation technician for permanent cosmetics” or a social media content editor, or a Quality manager at a FE College actually does. People won’t choose options they don’t know exist or pick options with massive scary unknowns.

What they are aware of amount to only a thin sliver of the sheer overwhelming possibilities open to them. It’s like going into Asda and picking your food for the week from only the first aisle. Except it’s not a week, it’s forty plus years of a working life. And it’s not Asda, but you get my point.

So why are we asking them that question? It seems nonsensical to begin to make judgements based on such a limited amount of the total range of choice. Are we surprised that we have large numbers of children wanting to go into certain careers and a complete dearth of willing applicants in other areas?

What are the messages we are conveying to young people just by asking that question? It says that you should know what you want to do, you should have a plan by now and you’re a failure if you don’t. So we end up with panicked youngsters, believing they have to rush into a career ‘pathway’ onto a final destination job.

I think what I’m discussing here are my own experiences of seeing Gottfredson’s Theory of Circumscription & Compromise, particularly the Circumscription stage, in action. The mere act of asking ‘that’ question acts as a accelerant to the processes of Circumscription described in this document

http://careersintheory.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/theories_gottfredson.pdf

on David Winter’s Careers in Theory blog. Possibilities are dismissed and routes are chosen to lead to a specific goal because an answer is requested.

So what can I do about this in my role? Two things:

  1. Acknowledge that it’s going to happen – through parents, other adults, demands of curriculum structure – young people will begin to make (maybe ill informed) plans that begin to determine priorities to them. To challenge these give time in IAG sessions to playing a devils advocate type role. Entice out of them justifications for their positions. And you might have to explain what the phrase “devils advocate” is as they won’t have a clue
  2. Get in there while these decisions are taking root with activities, events and trips that will begin to spread that narrow band of job knowledge to include a wider variety of roles. Show them the other aisles in Asda (you’re still following me on that one right?).

That last point begins to cover ground to do with school + employer engagement which is a big issue for all types of schools and one I want to devote a whole post to at some point. For now, I hope that we agree that it should happen lots and it should happen early.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/heydrienne/

Securing Independent Careers Advice – A guide for schools

First things first – this is a really useful document from the Dfe. It clearly lays out the new Statutory Duty on schools to organise Careers advice for their pupils. In easy to understand language it even sets out some examples of how schools might do this. All lovely you might think. Well……maybe. The looseness of the terms and the lack of specific requirements it expects will be a problem. These issues have been covered elsewhere by Tony Watt and (when I’ve figured out how to) I will link to his criticisms of the document but, for the time being, print it out and stick it under the nose of a member of SLT. 

 

My intentions for this blog

First up, what do I want to achieve with this blog? It’s good to plan, to have a focus so I don’t lose track of my intentions and end up trying to persuade you to check out my latest musical obsession du jour (Matt Corby btw, check him out, he’s very talented).

See look there, I meandered off. It’s very easy to do and I must be strict with myself.

So, a focus. With recent and forthcoming changes across the educational landscape, I felt a need, a niche in the market if you will, for a blog and a space for those who work in secondary schools dealing with Careers to push forward ideas for how our work fits into this new world. Because, despite a media focus on curriculum and qualification changes being delivered in an increasing variety of types of schools, our work is more vital now than ever. The national priorities defined by the current administration are so far up our street they’re practically parked in our living room. Social mobility, providing a skilled workforce closing the gap, employer engagement – all of these recent trends and talking points from politicians place our work right at the very heart of the modern education experience of our young people. We should be more vocal about fighting for the importance of our space within schools and more forward in establishing how our work can help achieve these goals.

Next up some definitions. Now, I hate wasting time on this but I know that it needs to be given a regarding look at least.

CEIAG

That’s the term I’ll be using. In your school, Local Authority or Academy Federation wondership you might use a different term. Let’s get over that now.

Careers, Education, Information, Advice & Guidance.

It says it all. If you organise a few hours out at a work experience placement for a little group of students who are struggling with mainstream lessons – that’s you. If you’re a pastoral Head of Year who organises the collection of the College applications – that’s you. If you’re a teacher who’s been asked to come up with a few lessons on interview skills – that’s you. From the full time, non teaching member of staff solely dedicated to that work (hi) to those schools who spread different parts of it to lots of members of staff to fit around pre existing responsibilities, you’re all in that term.

You’re all in that term because you’re speaking to young minds about their own tomorrow. Young people are all interested in their own future and trying to make sense of the possibilities of their place in the vast, vast world of work. I want this blog to a place where we can help each other do that for them.

Finally, a pre apology. I’m bound to get stuff wrong on here. I’m bound to get facts out of kilter or see a proposal and launch into a misinformed post that completely misses a blindingly obvious point. Please be gentle when I get it wrong. Get in touch and point out any mistakes, irregularities and general mind garbage in the comments or on twitter. I’m rubbish without your opinions and knowledge, I want to improve my own work and this is just a cheeky way of (hopefully) vacuuming up lots of great ideas. Share them.

Oh, and the typos. Oh God, if I can promise you one thing, it’s that there will be typos.