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

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:


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.

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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